LONDON — The Scottish Parliament suspended a vote on whether to hold a second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, following the terror attack in Westminster.
The Scottish Parliament presiding officer Ken Mackintosh said he called a halt to proceedings because the terror attack on the Houses of Parliament was preventing MS Ps from debating “in the manner they would wish to.”
He added that: “The fact our sister parliament had a serious incident is affecting this particular debate and it is affecting the contribution of members and it is for that reason that we are suspending the sitting.”
Scottish Parliament suspended because "to continue now would not allow members to make their contributions in the manner they would wish to" pic.twitter.com/nIg41ud4sS
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) March 22, 2017
“I think to continue at the moment would not allow members to make their contributions in the manner they would wish to.”
He added that the parliament would resume a “full and frank” debate on the second independence referendum at a later date.
MSPs had been expected to back a motion calling for a new independence vote at some point between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019.
The motion states that it is “the sovereign right” of the Scottish people to decide their future and calls for the UK government to hand over the necessary powers for a new poll.
The ruling Scottish National Party holds just 48% of seats in the parliament with the opposition Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties all opposed to a new poll.
However, support from the Scottish Green party was set to allow the motion to pass.
“The future of Scotland [should be] in the hands of people who live here” Green party co-convener Patrick Harvie told the Today programme.
The vote was expected to have piled on pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to reverse her opposition to a new referendum. May insisted last week that she would block any new referendum before Brexit, saying that it “would not be fair” to the Scottish people to hold a new poll “without all the necessary information” on what Britain’s final Brexit deal will be.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that a failure to respect the wishes of the Scottish parliament would “shatter” trust between the two nations.
“If a majority in the Scottish Parliament endorses [a new referendum], the Prime Minister should be clear about this,” Sturgeon said at her party’s conference last week.
“At that point a fair, legal and agreed referendum — on a timescale that will allow Scotland an informed choice — ceases to be just my proposal, or that of the SNP. It becomes the will of the democratically elected Parliament of Scotland.
“To stand in defiance of that would be for the Prime Minister to shatter beyond repair any notion of the UK as a respectful partnership of equals.”
A vote in favour of a second referendum would also place Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at odds with his own party in Scotland. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has insisted that no new poll must be held. However, Corbyn said last week that while he also opposed another referendum it would be wrong to block one once the Scottish parliament vote for it.
“If a referendum is held then it is absolutely fine, it should be held,” he told the Press Association.
“I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”
Dugdale later told the BBC that Corbyn had been “clumsy with his words” and had “very quickly rectified that.”
The Scottish parliament were due to vote on the motion at 5.30 on Wednesday. It will now be rescheduled.
Read the full motion on a second referendum:
“That the parliament acknowledges the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and therefore mandates the Scottish government to take forward discussions with the UK government on the details of an order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 to ensure that the Scottish parliament can legislate for a referendum to be held that will give the people of Scotland a choice over the future direction and governance of their country at a time, and with a question and franchise, determined by the Scottish parliament, which would most appropriately be between the autumn of 2018, when there is clarity over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, and around the point at which the UK leaves the EU in spring 2019.”
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